“Really, Victor, I can do it myself,” Violet said half-heartedly as she leaned heavily on the counter.
“Go sit down before you hurt yourself,” he said. “Marion gave me detailed instructions even a kindergartener can follow. I think I can handle this.” He then proceeded to make an excess of noise as he searched the cabinet beside the stove for the appropriate pot.
“Says the man who once took an hour to peel an onion,” she muttered, grabbing a paring knife, a cutting board and breaking off a piece of the ginger root before sitting at the kitchen table. She peeled the thin, papery skin off all the while watching Victor finally find the pot and then fill it with water and set it on the stove to the lowest setting.
“Victor, it’ll boil sometime next week if you leave it on low. How about putting it on high, why don’t you?” she said, now chopping the ginger.
“Are you sure? I always get the house smoky when I set anything above simmer.”
She rolled her eyes, and instantly regretted it. It hurt her head and made it spin even more. “I’m sure,” she replied and held out the chopping board to him. “Here, toss the ginger into the pot and add a cinnamon stick. You know where I keep my spices.”
“At my house?” he said, joking.
“Those are your spices, Victor. Please don’t fuss with me,” she snapped.
His smile vanished and he took the cutting board from her, then watched her place her head down on the table, resting it on her folded arms. “Is your nasty mood because you don’t feel well or am I just particularly irritating you today?” he asked.
“Yes,” came the muffled reply.
“Great. Should I leave?” he stiffly asked, going to the stove where he used the knife to push the ginger into the water.
Violet sighed, but did not reply. After a few minutes she raised her head and said, “Shall I make us some dinner? You ought to be hungry,” she said.
“I brought take out,” he answered.
“You did?” she said.
“Just what the doctor ordered,” he said, bringing to the table a large KFC bag.
“Doctor?” she said, taking the fried chicken, mash potatoes, buttermilk biscuits, butter-drenched corn-on-the-cob, cole slaw and gravy out of the bag and onto the table. “What…a cardiologist? Cuz this stuff will give anyone a heart attack and the salt content will send us into sodium shock.”
“Just shut up and eat it,” Victor said.
Violet stared at him in shock and regret. She couldn’t remember him ever snapping at her like that, but then she hadn’t been very nice to him all day. “Victor, I’m sor…” she said.
“What do you want to drink? You shouldn’t have wine with your medication,” he said, looking in the fridge, taking out a pitcher of lemonade. “How about this?”
“No, I’ll have the tea when it’s ready,” she said. “Is it boiling yet?”
“Set it on low. It can simmer while we eat. It’ll be ready by the time we’re done and then I’ll have some.”
He put back the pitcher and took out a bottle of soda which Ronnie had left behind.
“You never drink soda,” she said. “You can have some wine, you know. You’re not taking any drugs, are you?”
“I was thinking of starting,” he mumbled, placing two plates on the table.
His answer made her heart sink. She filled his plate with some of everything and thought of his constantly hunger boys and how all the food would be gone in two blinks of an eye.
“Simon and Ronnie would demolish all of this in two minutes flat, wouldn’t they?” she said, smiling. She waited for him to reply but when that didn’t come she set his plate down and waited for him to sit down beside her as he always did. This time, however, he sat across the table, as far from her as he could get.
“Victor, I’m sorry,” she said.
He looked at her, opening the bottle and took a long drink before saying, “And what exactly are you sorry about?”
Many things, she supposed, but uppermost on her mind was her refusal to marry him.
“Victor, I know I hurt you,” she said taking a small bite of her chicken and almost gagging. It was so salty!
“So, you hoit my wittle feewings, so what?” he said. “I’ll get over it, I’m sure.”
“You don’t have to be like that,” she said, getting increasingly flustered.
“Like what, Violet? Honest, truthful, upfront? That’s all I’ve been with you, and you’ve been anything but, so what the hell do you expect from me?”
“I…we’re going along fine as we are,” she said. “Why would you want to change that?”
He glared at her. “Why indeed,” he mumbled, setting down the bottle and bringing his plate forward he started eating like a barbarian.
“I mean…we enjoy each other’s company. We have fun. This is nice and comfortable,” she said, ironically not feeling the least bit comfortable having this conversation.
“Yeah,” he muttered with his mouth full, “This is great.”
They ate in silence for the longest time, until Victor pushed back his empty plate and said, “I invited your friend Helen to the Halloween party.”
“One and the same,” he remarked.
She shrugged. “I wouldn’t exactly call her my friend.”
“Well, that’s what she called you. Guess you fooled her too,” he spitefully said. “I think her two girls will have fun with the other kids.”
“I’m sure they will,” Violet said, frowning slightly. “When did you see her?”
“At the market. She helped me pick out the ginger. She said it would keep well in the fridge, but not to plant it because it isn’t spring, or something like that. Had no idea what she was talking about.”
Violet smiled. “It’s the one and only thing we both have in common. Gardening. Other than that we’re like day and night,” she said.
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” he muttered.
She looked up and frowned. “If you like that sort of person.”
“Meaning what exactly?” he said.
“Helen is… well, let’s just say no one’s convinced her exhusband fathered either of her girls,” Violet said, pursing her lips. “I’ll bet anything she’ll come to the party dressed—or should I say mostly undressed—as a sexy cat woman, a sexy nurse, or a sexy something or other. Proper decorum is not her forte.”
Victor stared at her through narrowed eyes. “I never saw this side of you.”
“Vindictive and judgemental, plus a little bit of a hypocrite,” he said. “Wasn’t it you who claimed not to listen to gossip? I recall you telling me how you despise those who slander others.”
She blushed bright pink.
“I don’t suppose it matters much what Helen comes dressed as since you won’t be there to see her and get all righteously indignant about it.”
“What? Why in the world would you say that?” Violet shrieked. “Of course I’m going! We planned the whole thing together.”
“We’ve done a great many things together, but I assumed those things are relegated to be the past now, never to be repeated… at least not with you.”
She stared at him, her heart beating like that of a frightened bird’s. “What… what do you mean?”
“Really, Violet, I do so hate it when you play dumb,” he said.
“Would you rather I not go to the party?”
“I thought you might not feel well enough and that you wouldn’t want to go. I mean to say, I will be there after all,” he said.
“I’ll be fine by then. The ginger will make sure of it,” she said. ”I promised the kids a nice Halloween party for them and I intend to do just that. The girls and I even…”
“We planned a surprise for you,” she said.
“What kind of surprise?” he asked.
“Not telling. They swore me to secrecy.”
He stared at her, questions popping in his head, but he set them aside. They hardly mattered anymore. “Is the tea done, you think?”
“Infusion,” Violet said, before she could stop herself.
“Technically, it’s an infusion… not that it matters, but yes, it’s ready now.”
She watched him as he poured the tea into a mug, biting her tongue. She would have liked it strained, but she didn’t expect Victor to know that or perhaps care at this point.
“Are you supposed to have the ginger floating around in there? Should I spoon it out for you?”
She smiled and stood up.
“Where are you going? Stay there!” he said sternly.
“I’m fine, Victor. I just need to go slow and not move my head too much.”
“But what do you want? I’ll get it for you.”
“I don’t know where I last put it,” she said, opening a few drawers until she found a small strainer tucked into the back of the third one. “Here it is. Use this.”
“That’s better,” he said, placing the newly strained tea at her place at the table. “Honey?”
“Yes?” she said, hoping he was no longer angry with her.
“No, I mean do you want honey… Honey?” he said, with a ghost of a smile.
She laughed. “Yes, please.”
He brought the little, plastic, honey-filled bear to her and watched her meticulously squeeze out a spoonful and stir it into the tea. She then tasted the tea and coughed.
“No, it’s just a bit strong,” she said, stirring it again.
“Is it bad tasting?”
“No, it’s just strong, but it should be for now. I may have to dilute the rest of it. It smells great though.”
He watched her sip at it, inhaling the fumes with her eyes closed, and he felt his chest grow tight and a deep sadness fill him. There was no way he could get over her, no way he could stop loving her, and yet he had to. She didn’t want him.
“Worse than the divorce,” he mumbled to himself.
“What did you say?” she said, sipping slowly at the tea.
“Nothing,” he said, standing up and putting away the leftover food. “Will you want any more of this or should I take it home with me?”
“There’s enough for us to have dinner tomorrow, so you can leave it here.”
“I’m not coming by tomorrow... or ever anymore,” he said, putting everything into the bag.
“What do you mean?” she said, setting down the cup with a loud clink. “Victor, what are you saying?”
“You’ve made it clear you don’t want me around,” he said, taking their plates to the sink.
“That’s not what I said and you know it!” she shouted.
“No? Then what exactly is it that you said? Forgive me but you’re going to have to help me as I left my Violet to English dictionary at home.”
“Can you stop with the snarky remarks?”
“Can you start with some truth for once?”
“I never lied to you,” she huffed.
“I beg to differ! What do you call that pile of bull shit you told me at the Falls?”
“What did I say?” Violet said, thinking back and coming up empty.
“Well, Dory, I should have realized it wasn’t important enough for you to recall when you mistakenly said you loved me.”
“I…I didn’t lie about that,” she said quietly.
“What’s that?” he said, putting his hand behind his ear. “Oh, right. Wouldn’t want your true love ghost to hear you saying that, even if it is a blatant lie.”
“Whether you believe it or not, I do love you, Victor. I just…”
“Don’t want all the bother that goes along with it. Yes, I know, but I need a wife. I want a mother for my children. I know I won’t be any good for them without a mother for them, too,” he earnestly said.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, Victor!” she shouted. “Do you really think Simon and Ronnie require mothering from me? They have a mother already!”
“I’m not talking about them, but yes, even they would like to be mothered by you. They adore you if you hadn’t noticed,” he said, going to her purse and extracting her cell phone, then holding it up for her to see. “Has a day gone by since you met them that they haven’t sent you a text, an email or called you just to say hello? Months go by before they talk to their own mother.”
She saw three texts right there on the screen, two from Ronnie and one from Simon. There were probably a few missed calls on there, too. They knew she was going to the doctor today and they had begged her to call them and tell them how it went. The lump in her throat wouldn’t allow an answer, so she just shook her head, ever-so-slightly lest her world spin out of control again.
“I love them, too,” she whispered.
“You have a funny way of showing it,” he said, tossing the phone back into her purse. “But it doesn’t matter. You want your solitary life and I want a real life with my kids. And that involves a real wife, hopefully one who can actually love me as much as I will try to love her.”
“So…so, what you’re saying is… you’re going to look for someone to give you children? You told me you were too old to start a new family and…”
“No, Violet…or is it Dory again?” Victor said. “I told you I was adopting Peter, Georgiana and Julian. You couldn’t possibly have forgotten that, could you?”
She gaped at him. “I didn’t…I didn’t think you were seriously thinking of it.”
“Not just thinking. I’ve started the process,” he said. “They’ll be mine before the new year, if all goes well, which the Trentons tell me is very likely.”
Violet swallowed hard, astonished and feeling something else, something she wasn’t willing to admit to just yet. “That… that’s great,” she muttered, dazedly.
“Yes, we’ll see,” he said. “Is there anything else I can do for you before I leave?”
“You…you don’t want to stay and watch a movie or something?”
“What’s the point, Violet?”
She stared at him drumming up the courage. At last she said, “I never said I wanted you out of my life. You’re my best friend, Victor.”
“You didn’t seriously just say that?” he said, flabberghasted and downright ticked off. “Friend? That’s what I am to you?” He shook his head and left with his KFC bag. He didn’t even stop to pet Calendula on her favorite behind-the-ear spot, before he rushed through the front door, slamming it behind him.
Violet brushed a tear off her cheek and sipped at her now cold tea. “Richard was my best friend, too… before I married him.”
“Your son is officially an asshole, you know that, right?” Richard said.
“Not yet, he’s not,” Heidi replied, gliding through the front door in hot pursuit. “I’ll make sure of it.”
Richard scoffed. “Good luck with that!” he shouted after her. Then he drew in a calming breath and placed both hands on Violet’s shoulders and whispered in her ear, “Come on, Babe. Let’s watch a sad movie and I’ll wrap my arms around you just like we used to do. We don’t need no stinking lawyer!”
Trouble was, Violet was pretty certain she did.
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